CHARLOTTE — A postseason rematch between two Southern Carolina Conference rivals Friday night had the makings of either an upset for the ages or another traditional Charlotte Catholic victory. The 3A west regional title game Friday night ended in favor of the Cougars (8-1, 5-1 SCC) as they held off Monroe (7-3, 5-2 SCC), 24-14, at home.
Like they did in their 27-0 victory over the Redhawks in Week 1, the Cougars had no problem with their rushing attack, as they piled up 235 yards thanks in part to a stellar game by Bucknell commit Paul Neel (28 carries for 172 yards). Neel eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark with his performance and tallied his fourth 100-yard rushing game of the season. On the other side, Monroe was limited to 63 rushing yards on the night. Senior Jack Crump (who transferred to Monroe from Metrolina in 2019), finishes his prep career with 2,115 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns.
“We’re definitely proud of our kids,” Monroe head coach Johnny Sowell said. “We’re proud of the way they were at the beginning and the way they are now… Anytime that you’re playing in the last game to go to the state championship, that is special. That’s a team effort. The spectators that we had the last three games has been amazing. Our crowd came like we were the home team. The sport is there, but we just have to continue do what we do. We expect to be running this thing again next year.”
The Redhawks started the game driving on offense with solid passing by sophomore Khamoni Robinson (16-of-27 for 170 yards). A few plays later, Robinson threw a ball that was tipped by Catholic senior Connor Dougherty (3 QB pressures, 1 sack) and intercepted by senior Liam Barbee within the first two minutes of the game. Two minutes later, Neel scored on a two-yard run to put Catholic up 7-0.
It took the rest of the quarter to get any offensive momentum going from either team. To begin the second quarter, Catholic sophomore quarterback Sean Boyle burst through the middle for another touchdown (1 yard) to extend Catholic’s lead to 14-0. The Redhawks finally slowed down the Cougars’ attack when Deuce Wilson sacked Boyle four minutes later. From there, however, Monroe’s offensive drives stalled inside the Cougars’ 30-yard line three times to close the first half.
After both teams traded possessions, Jack Jones was able to get a field goal on the board for Charlotte Catholic with 4:27 left in the third. The Redhawks gained a little momentum after Shaleak Knotts picked up a Catholic fumble in the fourth quarter, but the Cougars defense was not done yet. Dougherty strip-sacked Robinson on the next play, and defensive end Austin Alexander recovered the fumble in the end zone to extend Catholic’s lead to 24-0. The Redhawks were able to add two touchdown passes in the closing moments, but it was not enough for the visitors to mount a comeback.
Monroe concludes the 2021 spring season at 7-3 overall after placing third in the 3A Southern Carolina Conference and making its first regional title appearance since 2016. The Redhawks will graduate 15 seniors from its 44-man roster, including Crump, wide receiver Jordan Black (23 catches, 427 yards, three touchdowns) and running back Ricardo Brown (321 yards, five touchdowns).
Crump led all Union County players in rushing yards (877), rushing touchdowns (seven) and total tackles (75).
Monroe should have the ability to challenge for a conference title next year as the Redhawks will move into a new 2A/3A Conference with county teams Parkwood, Forest Hills, Central Academy and two other schools. Head coach Johnny Sowell’s team will bring back a lot of firepower on offense, as Robinson (1,705 yards, 17 touchdowns, four interceptions) and Knotts (30 catches, 562 yards, seven touchdowns) will both be back this fall.
Charlotte Catholic advances to its sixth state title appearance under head coach Mike Brodowicz and faces unbeaten Havelock Friday night. The Cougars have won the past three 3A state titles.
Charlotte Catholic 24, Monroe 14
Monroe0 0 0 14 — 14
Charlotte Catholic7 7 3 7 — 24
CC — Paul Neel 1 Run (Jack Jones kick)
CC — Sean Boyle 1 Run (Jones kick)
CC — Jones 30 Field Goal
CC — Austin Alexander Fumble recovery in end zone (Jones kick)
M — Shaleak Knotts 24 Pass from Jordan Black (pass failed)
M — Jordan Black 28 Pass from Jordan Black (Knotts Reception from Robinson)
7 First Downs12
170 Passing yards35
Rushing: M — Jack Crump 7-34, Deuce Wilson 5-12, Ricardo Brown 1-9, Khamoni Robinson 1-4; CC — Neel 28-172, Ryan Henley 10-27, Jimmy Brewer 9-30, Boyle 4-5, Sam Smith 1-1, Adam Franek 1-0
Passing: M — Robinson 16-27-2 170; CC — Boyle 1-5-1 35
Receiving: M — Knotts 6-51, Black 4-49, Reid 2-45, Crump 3-8 Wilson 1-4, Brown 1-13; CC — Jack Larsen 1-35